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Babyback ribs vs. Spare ribs

Which is your preference, and why?

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  1. Spare Ribs.....meatier and more fat makes them tender if cooked right. Also you can't make Chinese black bean spare ribs with babyback ribs.

    5 Replies
    1. re: monku

      Not true. I've made great see jup pai guet (!!!) with babybacks -- lots meatier. Well, see jup anything is great!

      1. re: Sarah

        Think my Chinese butcher would laugh me out of the store if I told him to cut up a rack of baby back ribs.

        1. re: monku

          Actually, I've only ever had back ribs in that preparation. Spares seem like they would be too fatty for a short braise like that.

          I do vastly prefer spares for American-style smoking or oven roasting though though, where the excess fat drips free. If you trim it St Louis style, the flap finishes cooking early and becomes a delicious snack for the weary BBQ cooks.

          1. re: monku

            Why would you go to a butcher who laughs at a customer's order?

          2. re: Sarah

            You're right.
            Went by a Chinese market this afternoon and they had baby back ribs cut up to go. I'll have to try it.

        2. I'm also a fan of spares. More meat, more fat, more yum.

          1. Baby Backs:

            1. They cook quicker
            2. I don't like the riblets off the spare's and don't want to pay for them.
            3. Costco has great BBacks, lots of meat, some are like little pork chops.
            4. I buy cases of baby backs at Costco, get an additional 25% off
            5. they look better than spares

            In bbq contests almost all the ribs that are turned in are Baby Backs.

            5 Replies
            1. re: duck833

              "In bbq contests almost all the ribs that are turned in are Baby Backs"
              Where did you get that from?

              1. re: duck833

                This is completely untrue. Baby backs are not for bbq. They start off tender and cook quickly. No reason to bbq them at all. For purposes of bbq, it's spare ribs all the way.

                But of course baby back ribs have many other uses and are more practical for the home cook for reasons already stated.

                1. re: Steve

                  I have a feeling that "bbq" might mean "meat cooked with bbq sauce" in that application.

                2. re: duck833

                  In bbq contests, most ribs are St. Louis-cut spares, and ALL the winners are.

                  1. re: duck833

                    how did you order your bulk from costco?

                  2. That is what I saw and chewed on.

                    At least in the NW, maybe it is different in other parts of the country.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: duck833

                      I just never heard or saw that from all the Food TV BBQ contests I've watched, usually its spare ribs they're smokin.
                      Almost every serious BBQ place I've been to serves only spare ribs.

                    2. spare's are cheaper, that is why restaurants do them instead of bbacks.

                      4 Replies
                      1. re: duck833

                        Applebee's, TGIFridays, Ruby Tuesdays, etc have baby back ribs AND ONLY BABY BACK RIBS on the menu.

                        Arthur Bryant's in KC, Bob Gibson's in Alabama, Interstate in Memphis, Kreuz Merket in Texas, etc SERVE ONLY SPARE RIBS.

                        I think I see a pattern here.

                        1. re: Steve

                          Well put, Steve. Kind of says it all.

                          Thanks to everyone for their input. I've only done baby back ribs in the past, and they always come out fine, but they never do seem very meaty. Rather skimpy, in fact. I think I'll try a rack of spare ribs this weekend.

                          1. re: Steve

                            +1 for patter recognition. I miss Kreuz's.

                          2. interesting explanations here:
                            Types of Pork Ribs

                            Spare Ribs - by definition, spare ribs comes from the belly of the pig, or hog. This is where we get the coolest meat of all from… bacon. This means of course that these type of ribs (spare ribs) are fattier, more flavorful and end up being cheaper than their fellow pork ribs - the loin back ribs. These come in slabs that range from 2 pound slabs to 4 pound slabs. Just for your science, nerdy barbequers (like me) the spare rib is the section of rib that is closest to the sternum. Just in case you wanted to envision the poor pig that you are soon to be slathering BBQ sauce on later.

                            Loin Back Ribs - these ribs come from the loin of the piggie (who would have thought? “loin” back ribs come from the “loin”). Also the place that we get the runner-up to the coolest cut of pork, the “pork chop”. The slabs are less fatty, less meat in general however the more tender of the two types. More expensive and per pound-wise, the most expensive cut of pork at the butcher’s block. Weight is considerably smaller than “spare ribs” with cuts usually staying below 2 and 1/4 pounds. Some call these little gems, “baby back ribs” which were made popular by the chain restaurant, Chili’s with that DAMN SONG. The common misconception in regards to the term “baby back ribs” is that any loin back ribs are “baby back ribs”. This is not true though. “Baby back ribs” is any loin back rib slab weighing less than 1 and 3/4 pounds. Another one of those nerd things to know and throw down in the backyard when your friends come over.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: bbqboy

                              Great info, bbqboy. I was aware of the differences of where baby backs and spare ribs come from, but I was unaware of the difference between loin back ribs (never heard that term before, actually) and baby back ribs. Now I know!

                            2. Spare ribs -- the fat makes them harder to overcook than babybacks.

                              1. Baby backs 1OO%. They may need more finesse when preparing, but the finished product doesn't even compare. Baby backs give you something to bite into and tear off of the bone. Spare ribs with all of the fat and flaccidity leave me with soggy meat and chewy gristle more often than not.

                                4 Replies
                                1. re: shayre

                                  I think you've had bad spares. When smoked low and slow and not overcooked the meat is juicy but the fat is rendered out. It comes off the bone cleanly where you bite while the rest continues to cling to the bone. You might want to find a new rib shack or work on your method.

                                  1. re: shayre

                                    Agreed. There is NO comparison. Why anyone would choose spares over back ribs is beyond me. So long as the cartilage is cut off, I'll eat spares, but I'd never buy them to prepare at home. BBQ joints use them because they're so much cheaper. Often times they sell the bits of cartilage with surrounding meat as rib tips, and they can make even more money off them. Not only that, but they take less finesse. I've made the two ribs back to back, and the back ribs far out shined the spares.

                                    1. re: abstractheory

                                      I agree. If you don't trust yourself not to overcook them, get the spareribs. Baby backs deserve more attention.

                                      But bottom line, if they're properly cooked, I'd gladly eat either, but be more grateful for baby back ribs than spareribs.

                                    2. re: shayre

                                      Not my experience at all. I have nothing against baby backs but spares are very meaty and flavorful. When I buy spares I trim St Louis style to remove the tips and the brisket flap. The tips are tasty and the brisket flap is very just plain excellent.

                                    3. They both have a place on my pit/plate ~~ Loin backs (AKA "Baby Backs") are easy to cook, making them an ideal starting place for the beginner backyard BBQer. They will withstand long cooking times, as well as the quick charcoal grilling methods. The Rendezvous Method (Memphis Tenn.) being my favorite way to cook them... Also they are ideal for many of the Asian/Oven recipes....

                                      Spare ribs are excellent BBQ fare for the more experienced cook seeking more deep flavor. They require more time, and patience to achieve that tender, savory, smokey succulence known as Southern Pit BBQ, but the rewards are well worth the time and effort....Whether, regular cut or St Louis cut they are my personal favorite.......

                                      Enjoy them both.........

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: Uncle Bob

                                        Too bad the Rendezvous doesn't use wood. I missed it when I bit into their charcoal ribs.

                                        The meatiness and toughness of spare ribs presents more of a challenge than bay backs, for sure. The payoff is in a thick, smoky, rib that baby backs can only dream of. Unfortunately, not many places can achieve the right effect.

                                      2. spare ribs are meatier and fail to dry out when cooking, unlike baby backs. I have gotten dry baby backs in even the most respectable of bbq restaurants.

                                        1 Reply
                                        1. re: observor

                                          I like them both.Each have totally different flavour.But I buy St.Louis style because I can get them for around 1.99lb. at Cash and Carry vs.2.99lbFor baby backs.